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Blackhawks assistant Crawford returns from suspension

Was disciplined for abuse of former players on previous teams

by Kevin Woodley / Independent Correspondent

VANCOUVER -- Marc Crawford is back as an assistant coach with the Chicago Blackhawks and hoping some good can come from his month-long suspension from the team.

Crawford returned to the ice for the Blackhawks morning skate Thursday for the first time since being suspended from team activities on Dec. 2 amid an investigation into allegations of misconduct during his previous coaching positions. The Blackhawks ended their investigation Dec. 16 and announced then that Crawford would remain suspended until Jan. 2. 

Crawford's suspension started two days after published remarks from Sean Avery and Patrick O'Sullivan described abuse from the coach while the former NHL forwards were with the Los Angeles Kings.

"I respect that for those players who came forward, obviously it was very emotional for them, and I feel badly they had to rehash some of these things," Crawford said. "I hope everybody can understand the best course of action for all involved is to continue to listen, continue to try and understand where people are coming from, and if you do that, then hopefully something good can happen from it and that's what my belief is. I hope that I'm part of the solution moving forward. I hope that episodes like I've been involved with don't happen again, because I don't think they have to. You look at all the great things that have been said over this past month or so, there's been a lot of really good dialogue that's happened. So maybe that's the good thing that's come out of this."

Crawford was hired before this season as an assistant by the Blackhawks. He was a coach with the Colorado Avalanche, Vancouver Canucks, the Kings, Ottawa Senators and Dallas Stars. Crawford released a statement Dec. 16 apologizing for his past behavior and mentioned past players Avery, O'Sullivan, Brent Sopel and Harold Druken, who played for Crawford when he coached the Canucks. 

Crawford wouldn't get into specifics about which players he spoke to in person, but he talked about seeking counselling in 2010, something the Blackhawks revealed in their Dec. 16 statement, and said would continue. 

"I was evolving as a person and players were evolving and if you want to stay in the game you've got to adjust and try and shape your methodology to fit the time," he said. "On a personal level, it just felt I was apologizing too much, and I didn't like that feeling, and I still don't like it. It's very uncomfortable for me to feel that way. Finding out why I am like I am takes a lot of introspection, and I feel good about the things I've done to improve."

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced programs aimed at sensitizing team personnel and players to abusive behavior during the Board of Governors meeting on Dec. 9.

"There has always been a line between what's good and what's over the line, and there were times I got way too close to that line and crossed that line, and his point was why even get close to it?" Crawford said. "I hope that's one of the lessons we learn through this. It's one of the lessons certainly I learned. People talk a lot about reading and reacting as a coach. My natural tendency was to react and then read, but I think Mr. Bettman is right, why do you need to get close to the line?"

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